A tool to help predict whether someone who’s been arrested will reoffend does not factor in race. But it could consider convictions. So you’ve just been arrested. Welcome to Philadelphia’s criminal justice system.
For about eight years, Philadelphia’s probation and parole department has used a computer algorithm to rate the riskiness of nearly every offender it oversees. But officials there won’t say what factors the tool weighs, raising questions about transparency. The city plans to create a similar risk assessment tool for use in bail decisions.
Democratic candidate for district attorney Larry Krasner has a plan to get rid of cash bail. He’s not the only game in town. Josh Glenn was just 16 when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, charged as an adult and thrown in a Philadelphia jail cell.
And city officials are only partway toward their goal. On an average day, there are about 1,500 fewer inmates in the Philadelphia prison system than there were just two years ago. Philadelphia still has the highest incarceration rate per capita of the top 10 largest American cities.
Bruce Herdman, chief of medical operations for the Philadelphia Department of Prisons, sometimes describes the county jails this way: “This is the largest psychiatric hospital in the state of Pennsylvania.” Forty percent of Philadelphia inmates are on psychotropic medications; 17 percent have what’s considered a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.
Joshua Glenn was 16 and facing some serious charges – and but he was determined to fight them. Sent away to Philadelphia’s notorious 19th-Century-built House of Correction on charges including aggravated assault and attempted murder rap by a DA’s office that wanted to try Glenn as adult, the teenager believed in his innocence, rejecting a plea deal that might have sent him home, on probation.